Bill restricting property ownership by Chinese challenged in court

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include two Chinese citizens who live and work in Florida and have deposited money on new homes.

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

A group of Chinese citizens who live in Florida and a real-estate brokerage firm that caters to Chinese-speaking people on Monday filed a federal lawsuit challenging a new state law aimed at restricting the sale of properties to people and businesses linked to the Chinese government.

The law (SB 264) prohibits Chinese citizens from buying farmland or any property within 10 miles of a military installation or “critical infrastructure,” such as a seaport or airport.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida, said the law “will have the net effect of creating ‘Chinese exclusion zones’ that will cover immense portions of Florida.”

It names Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Meredith Ivey and Florida Real Estate Commission Chairwoman Patricia Fitzgerald as defendants.

The new law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month, bans Chinese individuals who aren’t U.S. citizens or do not have lawful permanent resident status from owning Florida property.

Lawyers for plaintiffs argued that the registration requirement is “burdensome, discriminatory and stigmatizing.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include two Chinese citizens who live and work in Florida and have deposited money on new homes that will be completed after the law goes into effect on July 1. The new homes will be located within 10 miles of a military base or critical infrastructure.

The new law also is representative of decades-old efforts to discriminate against Chinese people, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued: “The law stigmatizes them and their communities, and casts a cloud of suspicion over anyone of Chinese descent who seeks to buy property in Florida.”

Plaintiffs are represented in the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the ACLU Foundation of Florida and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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